International press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders on Tuesday accused the Israeli military of deliberately targeting news photographers covering Palestinian protests in the occupied West Bank.
“Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the violence used by Israeli forces against Palestinian, Israeli and foreign photojournalists covering demonstrations against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier and the continuing colonization of Palestinian territory,” it said in a statement.
“The press freedom organization deplores the total impunity enjoyed by the soldiers responsible for these abuses,” it added in the statement, headlined: “Israeli troops take aim at photojournalists covering protests in West Bank.”
An army spokesman denied the allegations.
“There is no such policy and I would even say it’s ridiculous to make such a claim,” Captain Arye Shalicar told AFP. “There is no intention to deliberately hurt somebody.
“These demonstrations are generally violent,” he said. “The photographers are among them… exactly where those using violence against the security forces are, they are taking a risk of being hurt. By the fact of being there, they are placing themselves in danger and they need to be aware of that.”
Reporters Without Borders cited a February 10 protest at Nabi Saleh, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, where it said: “Two Palestinian journalists were injured by tear gas grenades and rubber bullets fired by Israeli soldiers.
“Witnesses (said) the soldiers appeared deliberately to fire tear gas grenades and rubber bullets in the direction of the journalists after barring them from areas where Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli soldiers,” it added.
The village of Nabi Saleh has since the end of 2009 been the scene of weekly demonstrations against expansion of the neighboring Israeli settlement of Halamish.
The protests, which bring together villagers, Israeli leftists and pro-Palestinian activists from abroad are frequently marked by clashes with the army.
The NGO listed what it said were other incidents where photographers were injured, including at Kafr Qadum, in the northern West Bank, and at Bilin, near Ramallah, which has become one of the best-known sites of protests against Israel’s West Bank barrier.